Thursday, 3 July 2014

The case for the British Union: don't believe a word



One of the things I’ve always tried to get across is that the Bedroom Tax, benefits’ sanctions, soaring unemployment, increasing poverty, widening inequality, low pay, zero-hours contracts, tolerance of tax avoidance and a whole range of other issues have not happened as the result of an evil spell cast by bad pixies.  All of the above have impacted on our lives because of decisions taken by politicians.

Of course, the argument goes that, in a democracy, politicians govern with the consent of the people.  Therefore, the politicians who took the decisions and implemented policies that resulted in the above outcomes did so with our support.  They could not have formed the government if we hadn’t given them our consent by electing them.

Actually, that supposed tenet of democracy – politicians govern with the consent of the people – does not apply to Scotland, at least not while the country remains part of the British Union.

All of the policies and issues listed above have resulted from decisions taken by the UK Government, which is comprised of MPs from the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats.  At the last UK Election, in May 2010, the Lib Dems and Tories respectively finished third and fourth in terms of votes cast by the people of Scotland.  Therefore, by no stretch of the imagination can either the Conservatives or Liberal Democrats claim to be governing with the consent of the people in Scotland.

Ah but, Scots are told by British Unionists, we are ‘Better Together’ as part of the UK, and the Tories emerged as the largest party, in terms of MPs returned to Westminster from across the UK at the 2010 Election, which is why they have the consent of the people to govern, albeit in a coalition with the Liberal Democrats, which was required because no party achieved an overall majority.

So, in order for us to be ‘Better Together’ in the UK, the people of Scotland must accept our wishes, as expressed at the ballot box, will be ignored and we will have to accept whatever government is elected by the people of England, who form the majority of the UK population.  That has been the case for the past 50 years: throughout that period Scotland has voted Labour at UK Elections, but we only got Labour Governments when England also voted for the party.  For the majority of the past 50 years, Scotland has had UK Tory Governments, despite never once voting for them. 

Apparently, according to the British Unionist side in the current debate on Scotland’s future, the situation described above results in us being ‘Better Together’.  In fact, so enthralled to the warped logic of British Unionism is the Labour Party that its official position is to support the right of Tories to govern Scotland from London rather than have a Labour Government in an independent Scotland – even when Scots have used their democratic mandate through the ballot box to give Labour consent to govern.

Of course, use of the phrase ‘Better Together’ to describe a situation that, in reality, results in Scotland having no say over who governs our country – in terms of major policy areas, such as taxation, social security, employment, defence and foreign affairs – is nothing new.  George Orwell, in his dystopian novel ‘1984’, described how those in positions of power would pervert the accepted meaning of words in order to manipulate public opinion and create a belief that a negative situation was positive.

More recently, Noam Chomsky, the highly-respected American linguist, philosopher and political commentator has introduced the concept of ‘manufactured consent’ where those in power use the media to create a situation where consent to government policies is manufactured through the creation of ‘necessary illusions’. 

For the British Unionist side in Scotland’s Independence Referendum debate, the immense weakness of its argument is partly concealed by the creation of ‘necessary illusions’, such as use of the phrase ‘Better Together’ to describe a situation that actually minimises Scotland’s ability to decide our own future and allows power to be retained in the hands of London-based politicians for whom we did not vote.

The other side of the ‘doublespeak’ coin is the presentation of independence as being something of which we should be scared.  Alistair Darling MP, the Labour head of the ‘Better Together’ campaign, told Scots we would be bad parents if we vote for independence, describing such action as being like us buying “a one-way ticket to send our children to a deeply uncertain destination”. 

Of course, independence is actually the normal state of affairs for virtually every nation on the face of planet Earth: independence is the only constitutional position that allows individual nations full control of resources and full powers to legislate in the interests of the people, but a compliant British/Scottish media – including the BBC – is only too willing to participate in the distortion of reality required to present the normality of independence as ‘negative’ and the subservient powerlessness of Scotland remaining in the British Union as ‘positive’.

The anti-independence campaign, run by political parties based in London, is deeply dishonest.  At the core of its argument is the ‘doublespeak’ phrase ‘Better Together’.  Scotland’s future will not be better if we remain as a devolved sub-state within the British Union: a ‘No’ vote in September’s referendum will mean continued austerity, deeper cuts to vital public services, more inequality, even more benefits’ sanctions imposed on the poorest and most vulnerable people in some of the country’s most deprived areas. 

However, restoring our independence through a ‘YES’ vote will see us take back all the powers enjoyed and exercised by every normal nation in the world: independence delivers to us full control of our nation’s resources and allows us to implement policies to benefit the people of Scotland.  Independence means we will always get the government for which we vote and, in turn, fully restores the principles of democracy, including that politicians only have legitimacy when they govern with the consent of the people.

Despite their best efforts, British Unionist ‘doublespeak’ cannot mask the dishonesty of ‘Better Together’ nor hide the truly positive reality presented by independence and the opportunity to govern our own country in the interests of the people of Scotland. 

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